“To contemplate is to look at shadows.”
“The following is a guest post by The Green Screen Mage.”
Last month the newest installment in The Legend of Zelda series came out, Twilight Princess HD. If any of you had a Wii or GameCube about 10 years ago, it’s likely you played it. The GameCube was my jam at the time and this was one of my favorites. Replaying it again now, I can say the extra polish really makes the game pop. Back then, it was trying to be edgy and dark in comparison to the light hearted and bright Wind Waker, and the HD version definitely cleared that up and added some color and details.
I’ll be honest, there wasn’t much I remembered about playing Twilight Princess, aside from learning the difference between East and West and DOUBLE CLAWSHOT. That may have been my favorite gadget. Going through it again, the one thing I felt was an almost overwhelming sense of nostalgia, or at least attempts at nostalgia. This isn’t just because this is the first Zelda game I was able to beat on my own. I’ll admit it. I wasn’t the best gamer when I was younger. The more I played it, the more I realized it was very much trying to mirror Ocarina of Time, but falling just shy of it.
After Ocarina of Time came out, most fan complaints were either that the new games were too much like OoT or not enough like it. Usually the complaint was made about the same game. This was one of those games that I think deserved that criticism.
It starts with Link living in a village outside of Hyrule, he then has to collect a sword and shield, before going to the forest temple, then travels to a small, gloomy village outside of Death Mountain that you have to brighten up, before entering the Fire Temple. Is this sounding familiar? And, yes. You do go to the Water Temple next. The game has its differences, such as being a wolf for half of it, but it’s easy to tell they were following the flow of OoT. Now, I haven’t played many of the games before OoT, so maybe that’s just a pattern that many of the games have had. I wouldn’t know. Ask the Well-Red Mage.
I could go on about the similarities all day, but let’s just get into the game. As I mentioned, you play a wolf for about half of it. Link is pulled into the Twilight Realm at the beginning of the game, and being the Hero, Chosen One, etc. he gets turned into a giant wolf and can travel through the realm. This is one of the more interesting mechanics. It allows you to dig under walls, scale tall buildings and cliffs, sense things, such as scents and invisible enemies, and literally go beast mode against baddies. Later in the game, you can switch from Link to his wolf form at will, this adds another new dynamic to dungeons that I think could have been utilized a little bit more. The other plus is that Wolf Link runs faster, which, if you’re like me and can’t remember where Epona is, can be helpful when traversing across Hyrule Field.
Speaking of Epona, let me just get past my least favorite part of the game. The stupid horse. I love Epona in Ocarina of Time, but the controls for her in this game brought me to the point of chucking the controller across my couch more than once. There are a few horseback battles throughout this game and the oversensitive and jerky motions are just frustrating. Any time you push her to go faster, any touch to the left or the right practically turns into a 180 degree turn. I may be over exaggerating a bit. This is especially difficult when you are trying to keep up with an enemy and swinging your sword. I personally instinctively lean slightly into the enemy and that sends Epona into a whole other direction. I didn’t find too many other complaints regarding the controls other than this. Maybe I’m just terrible at riding a horse and no one else had this trouble though.
For me, an essential part of any open world game are the side quests. This is something Twilight Princess did not lack on. It had just enough side quests and mini games to be enjoyable, but not overwhelming to the point of forgetting there’s even a main quest. There’s a fishing mini game, a couple flying ones, snowboarding, and a few others. Most games are used for rupee farming or Heart Piece collection. The side quests are also fairly enjoyable and involve a fair bit of hoping across the map, though running across Hyrule Field with a barrel full of hot water that cannot get cold or break can get a little irritating. The only complain regarding the side quests were that it seemed too easy to collect plenty of rupees throughout the main quests, so you often didn’t have to bother with these to get what you needed.
Dungeons. We should probably talk about dungeons more as they are an essential part to the Zelda games. Twilight Princess had a number of temples that copied others from older games, but I already mentioned that. Each temple had the usual: get through half of it, find a new gadget, and get through the other half dynamic. Some of the dungeons really worked, having you ignore obvious treasure chests and doors, because you just couldn’t reach them yet, and then returning to the same area later. Others were just a little too simple. They followed the dynamic, but usually in a very streamlined way that put you back to where you were supposed to go without much, if any, backtracking. The Lakebed Temple tried to be a little more confusing and complex like the Water Temple, but it seemed to fall the shortest. This may just be due to the hype surrounding these temples, but it definitely felt like there could have been more to it. The bosses were also a little disappointing in most temples. You use the gadget you get to beat the baddie and just aim for the eyeball or the glowing gem. There were plenty of side quests and mini bosses that brought difficulty to the game, but this seemed to be lacking in the dungeons. Overall, they were mostly just too small, and some of the gadgets you got were only useful in those dungeons and maybe one or two other times.
Now, I didn’t get into the story of the game too much, because that is usually my favorite part of any game and this one was no exception. I prefer not to spoil too much of the overall story to give others a chance to experience it. For a Zelda game, it had the same characters (Link, Zelda, and Ganon) but added in new additions: Midna and Zant. Zant was the new baddie and Midna was similar to the Navi character by traveling with you and offering hints, but was a bit less annoying.
The story mostly focuses on her and Link, while Ganon and Zelda take more of a background roll in this one. Link is older and he gets thrust into the roll of hero and has to help keep Twilight from destroying Hyrule with the help of a resident of the Twilight realm, Midna. I have my complaints about the game, but the overall story was enjoyable and built on the past games well. My only big disappointment, (spoiler: highlight to reveal) was building up the big bad as Zant, the evil Twilight ruler, and then once you finally face him, he is devolved into a stupid, laughable puppet of Ganon. It’s a Legend of Zelda game, we know Ganon is going to be the final villain. They took a fairly interesting and honestly pretty cool looking bad guy and turned him into the court jester in about 15 seconds. He was an interesting character that they started to flesh out, but all of that was lost the second he starts giggling and spinning about like a joke. It didn’t fit in with the rest of the games attempts to be darker and serious and kind of ruined a possibly cool new character. Overall, the story was pretty well paced and I enjoyed a lot of the new characters.
This is definitely not the best game in the Legend of Zelda series, but it’s not terrible either. This was one of those games that was so close to being great and to some it still is, but I found it fell a little short in some areas. The new graphics in Twilight Princess HD bring a brightness that it needed when it was first released. It’s nice to get games with updated graphics and I can’t wait for FFVII, but I’m looking forward to a whole new installment to the series. Personally, I’m waiting for a game from Zelda or Ganon’s point of view, but for now this one is still a pretty decent addition to the series.
The 8-Bit Review
This is an HD remake so of course the graphics are one the reasons most are going to go back to it. It’s very similar to the Wind Waker HD, where everything was brighter and more polished. When this game first came out in 2006, it looked fantastic and it holds up. The main difference is they got rid of a lot of the dark and foggy look that they had to make the game be more edgy. At the time, they were trying to be darker, and they took it a little too far. It almost got distracting. The new brighter look is definitely an improvement.
It’s a Legend of Zelda game, who is complaining about the audio? There were a few really good new songs, and a number of remixes of old songs that helped bring about a feeling of nostalgia in a good way. I had some complaints about too much attempts at being nostalgic, but they did it right when they incorporated old music. Hearing the Lost Woods music as you chase the Skull Kid through the Sacred Grove can’t help but get you excited and ready for a chase.
I’m pretty sure you all know why this got a lower score. The stupid horse. The over sensitive and jerky controls on the horse were a nuisance. The horseback battles could have been really good, if they tweaked the controls just a bit. Otherwise, the gameplay is similar to other Zelda games. The sword combat and gadgets are used in a similar manner in the past. I enjoyed the extra fight moves that you can learn from OoT Gold Wolf Link throughout the game. These were utilized well, as some mini bosses were near impossible to beat without some of these moves. You don’t have to get them, but I recommend it. It makes the fights more fun and varying.
The gameplay is also made easier with the Wii U controller acting as an inventory and map screen. It makes switching out weapons, armor, and from Link to Wolf form much faster and glancing down at the map less of a hassle. You don’t really have to pause the game unless you need it. There is one downside to the controller, that could be an upside for some, and that’s the motion sensor. When you aim the bow and arrow, clawshot, or similar weapons, you can move the controller to aim it. This at times works flawlessly and actually improves the gameplay, but there are times where it is just a little too sensitive and you can’t hit that clawshot spot to save your life. I found it worked best with the bow and arrows, but if you have to look around too much it’s just makes everything harder and you end up looking at the floor.
If you read the spoilery bits above, you also know why this only got a 7. You play Link whose village is in trouble, his friends get kidnapped, and you get dragged into the Twilight Realm. You’re a giant wolf and you get stuck in a deal with a tiny Twili named Midna. Of course, you turn back to normal and eventually learn you have to save all of Hyrule and the Twilight Realm from the evil Zant. BUT! Spoiler/not really spoiler the bad guy was Ganon the whole time!!
The Twilight storyline was a new twist to the series that was fairly enjoyable. The stories that led up to and through each temple were for the most interesting and fit in with the story well. They utilized the Zoras the best, but the Gorons certainly brought some fun stuff to the story (particularly sumo wrestling). The only disappointment in the story was one of the final bosses. Either beat the game or read the spoiler above and you’ll know why.
The game certainly had it’s challenging moments, but, aside from side quests, it was fairly streamlined and almost easy. The dungeons are the main part of almost any Zelda game and they fell short of being challenging almost every time. They were either way too small or led you exactly where you needed to go without enough puzzle solving. The boss battles also felt lacking the challenge and fear of dying. I never got a single Game Over in any boss battle or had to use more than one fairy.
Where the game was challenging was usually in mini bosses and side quests. There were some decently elaborate quests that took a bit of exploring and the Savage Labyrinth was just a beast. The Darknut mini bosses were easily harder than any boss. If anyone has a strategy for beating them, please let me know. The Draw move was my go to, but that doesn’t work as well against 3 at once.
Considering the fact that those were mostly side quests, I couldn’t give this game a higher challenging score, because it fell short of what you want out of a Zelda game. Mostly simple puzzles, non-threatening boss battles, and disappointingly easy dungeons. I did just beat Ocarina of Time and Wind Waker, so my expectations may be a tad high.
If you go through the game just to beat it, you’ll find a number of interesting side quests that you missed out on along the way. The side quests and game alone make this game replayable. I usually play most games through once for the story and then again for the extras. This game is not lacking on extras. It can be an easy game, but that adds to the replayability. You don’t have to worry about fighting past “that one boss” to get to a treasure you missed the first time.
It’s a Zelda game, so you’re going to expect some similarity in characters and monsters. Twilight Princess just tried too hard to be reminiscent of Ocarina of Time. There was plenty of unique aspects, such as Wolf Link, horseback battle, and new gadgets. These however were not enough to ignore the overwhelming sense of sameness. Don’t get me wrong, I love traversing Hyrule Field as much as the next, but the obvious design similarities in the story and gameplay were almost boring. The game manages to cling to entertaining with the new aspects, but those even get pushed to the back burner later in the game and you can almost beat the game without bothering with some of them.
Uniqueness tends to be a problem for series installments. They either go on way too long, the game developers stop caring and just throw anything out to make money, or they try and play off of the accomplishments of the past. Legend of Zelda is one of those series that surprisingly hasn’t had a huge decline in quality. For such large games, it’s not a surprise that they are going to pull from previous games for material. So far, the last of the three is LoZ:TP’s only sin. That is pretty impressive for a franchise going on this long and with so many installments. I have, however, not played Skyward Sword, and I haven’t heard the most promising things. That’s my next purchase. I’ll get back to you once I beat it.
My Personal Grade: 8/10
I was 14 years old. I hadn’t played much more than FPS and fighting games. The long, open world, action adventure type games were only things I had watched my dad and brother play and eventually passed them the controller if I had ever tried before that. Then we got Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess for the GameCube. I was determined to do this one on my own. My dad got it on the Wii shortly after I got it and one day I noticed he was on the same boss I had just beaten. Wanting to be the one to beat it first, I ran to my room and flew through the last two temples faster than a Gold Chocobo. I beat it before him. It was one of the best days ever. For being new to these games, yes, it was a challenge, but I loved every minute of it.
For everything this game gets wrong, it gets a lot right. For younger and less experienced players, the challenge could be right at their level. For people who loved Ocarina of Time more than any other game, this could be the perfect amount of nostalgia for them. Maybe someone has the magical ability to control Epona and loves the horseback battles. Either way, it gets things wrong, but it has at least something that most people can enjoy. For 14 year old me, it was the start of a whole new world in gaming. For 24 year old me, it was the continuation of a story that I have grown to love and a wicked sweet Link costume upgrade that I am seriously considering making.
Aggregated Score: 7.3
Did you enjoy this post? Consider becoming a Warrior of Light and join us in restoring integrity and quality to entertainment journalism. We specialize in long-form, analytical reviews and we aim to expand into a podcast and webzine with paid contributors! See our Patreon page for more info!